The commute to the Stussy store left me so hot and sweaty, ham and eggs could’ve been cooking underneath my Ham and Eggs shirt. However, fate already had an apology gift-wrapped and waiting for me in the form of a much shorter line than anticipated – and a swanky sticker on the wide glass window that stands between a limited edition Tribe Called Quest line of clothing and a slowly growing mob of fans:
The last time I sweat like this was when I first heard “Award Tour” near the tail end of middle school. The boundless party energy coupled with the cutting voices of MCs Q-Tip and Phife Dawg marked A Tribe Called Quest as foundation for my still maturing taste in hip-hop, and Stussy shared my enthusiasm.
This past Saturday, the Orange County, CA-based clothing company celebrated their 35th anniversary and their 25th in the heart of SoHo in New York City, and who better to bring fashion heads from all walks of life together than Afrocentric rap legends Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed, Q-Tip, and Jarobi (here on out referred to as ATCQ)? All the fans standing outside in the heat couldn’t agree more when Ali Shaheed Muhammad, DJ/producer for the trio (sometimes quartet) showed up, hopped out of his Uber, and jogged to the front door to universal fan acclaim. Another Uber-ish taxi followed shortly after, but let’s just say that dude couldn’t exactly kick it.
By the time I showed up on the line to grab some gear, there was already a second line for signing, both of which took up lot of sidewalk space and confused anyone looking to get in on the action. If I had a nickel for every time I heard one of the Zulu Nation security guards direct someone to the back of the first line…anyway, shortly after Ali stunned the crowd, Phife Dawg, ATCQ’s live wire MC, descended into the crowd and asked us a favor: “Look, I have a fan right here who wants to take a picture in front of this sticker. Can we do that?” Only one brave person in the small crowd of shook fans said “sure” as Phife and an ecstatic woman parted the line like Moses did the Red Sea and started capturing the moment – followed by everyone within a 10-foot radius; some eager fans expanded the shot, too.
Jazzy production, conscious Afrocentric vibes, and rock-solid rhymes have endeared ATCQ to a few generations of hip-hop fans. Dropping their first LP People’s Instinctive Travels & The Paths of Rhythm in 1989, they stretched and contorted their pillars of style over five albums and nine years, most notably The Low End Theory from 1991 and Midnight Marauders from 1993, two albums that helped to further bridge the gap between social consciousness and thumping party jams. Even though the group proper disbanded after their 1998 album The Love Movement, New York and the rest of the world never let the love die.
After his gracious outdoor appearance, Phife ran back inside and my section of the line soon followed him in. The steez honoring our favorite Questers was finally at our fingertips:
But those snapbacks and t-shirts weren’t the only surprises waiting for us when we got inside. Dave Chappelle, standup comedy legend and hip-hop fanatic, came out with his wife and daughter to show his support for the quartet. I couldn’t bring myself to be the 17th person to ask for a photo with him, so I hopped on the signing line. Lucky for everyone on the corner of Spring Street & Sullivan, Dave walked down the line and shook everyone’s hand, kindred spirits clapping hands to the sound of the break.
This was a hell of a preamble to meeting one of my foundation hip-hop groups, but the crescendo hit *hard* once I made my way inside for the signing. Before I knew it, I was 10 feet away from the four men whose music had helped mold my mind and thirst for the reverb of bass in my heart. There they were. Right in front of my face. And my shirt was *still* drenched.
They couldn’t have been nicer. My inaudible garbles (roughly translated: “Thanks for everything that you do”) appeased the gods as they signed my vinyl and gave the love back tenfold; and I wasn’t the only fan who lost their composure. People in front of me hopped up for selfies, walked out with signed collectibles, and gassed for full minutes as we all basked in each other’s adulation.
As Ali and Phife complimented my shirt and thanked me for coming out, it dawned on me why Stussy chose ATCQ as the headliners for this anniversary: the two run at a close parallel (ATCQ is 26 years old, Stussy’s been in New York for 25) and their post-group influence still looms large over just about every aspect of hip-hop culture to this day. Stussy’s capsule drop was proof positive that whether we’re talking about clothing, food (Jarobi left the group after its first album to become a chef), or the ever fluid world of music, Tribe’s still got the jazz. Thank you for everything.